The breeding peak has long passed in much of the region, which is a good news/bad news affair. The bad, of course, is that the long-awaited crazy time has slipped away for another year. The good news is actually two-fold: There’ll be another (though minor) wave of rut activity in the next week or 10 days, and bucks will find those late-cycling does (and newly cycling fawns) near food sources. If you can find a hot food source now, your chances of getting close to a nice buck will skyrocket. Guess correctly on your stand site–like Logan Marum did on the dandy Wisconsin buck shown above–and you can still tag a monster.
This is all assuming that you want to wait for a buck, of course. With shotgun and late muzzleloader seasons open across much of the region (Iowa’s first shotgun season opened just last weekend), making short drives and/or pushes is an attractive option for many hunters. It also remains an excellent method for taking a good buck. Many mature whitetails are simply not going to move much during the daylight, and forcing them out of cover toward a waiting posted hunter is the best bet for tagging such an animal.
Forced movement has little to do with rut activity. But if you’ve seen fantastic rut sign in your hunting area, and are not convinced you’ve seen a buck capable of making those big rubs and giant scrapes, making a gentle push through bedding areas near that sign could force the monster to make a move.
And if you’re not interested in pushing deer, the weeks ahead promise to hold some good hunting. I’m making almost-daily scouting runs to familiarize myself with late season feeding areas, and my trail cameras are still out there working for me. When we get some snow and cold (there’s actually rain predicted for this evening), I’ll be ready to hang a stand in the best spot. And who knows? I may run into some late rut activity while I’m watching all that feed.